The series of concussive blasts nearly threw Isaac off his feet; as it was, he barely managed to keep his balance, gripping the table before him to remain standing. Swearing to himself, he wildly swung his head around, looking for something, anything to focus on. The explosions had partially blinded and deafened him, causing his equilibrium to deteriorate even further.
As the dots and stars cleared from his eyes, Isaac's peripheral vision caught a flash of silver, heading towards him at an alarming rate. Years of battle-trained reflexes took over, and the alchemist flung himself away from the table, rolling to a crouch as a knife thudded into the slab of wood.
Tracing the path of a throwing knife was a fairly simple task; it took only an instant for Isaac to spot the thin man descending towards the street, armed with a gun and another blade. "Tonight you die, dog!"
As the assassin landed on the ground, rolling forward to absorb the impact, time seemed to slow down, as Isaac saw, observed, and reacted. Tables won't provide cover. Civilians fleeing area. Assailant skilled with knives? Called me dog; grudge against military or alchemists. Hostile intent. Stop at all costs.
Before the man had regained his footing, Isaac was on the run, barreling towards one of the flaming automobile husks, desperate to get any kind of cover between himself and the bullets that would undoubtedly be heading his way. Throwing himself the last few meters, Isaac gritted his teeth as his back slammed into the car's remains, forcing himself to ignore the blistering heat and noxious fumes that poured from the blazing wreckage. A few burns would be well worth the shielding mass.
As smoke began to filter into his lungs, the soldier scrambled with his gloves and rings, donning the articles within a few seconds; another ticks of the clock allowed him to dump his chunk of steel to the ground.
Assume he knows where I am. Can't dodge bullets. Need distraction. ...Going to hurt, isn't it?
Isaac's hand screamed in agony as he slammed it against the burning metal at his back. Forcing his way through the pain, the alchemist forced his energy to pulse through the wreckage, a quintet of spikes, each about as wide as a finger, bursting from the other side of the car. The appendages lanced through the air, zig-zagging back and forth as they converged on the place the assassin had landed. Though it was unlikely the blow would actually hit the man, the diversion should hopefully buy some time.
"Enough", Leo screamed at Archer as he prepared for the last blow. He struggled to break free but couldn't bring himself to fight back. Ken on the other hand broke the very earth Archer was standing on and brought up a strong stream of water that almost tore his leg apart. The Alchemist wrangled in agony, but it did not stop Leo from tapping the palm of his hand on the wall and releasing waves after waves of flying metal darts.
"Like a pin-doll, like a bloody doll!".
Amon yelped in surprise as he dove to the left. As he hit the ground, explosions rocked the area near him. WELP, things went to hell pretty quick, didn't they? he thought as he rolled to his feet to see a large, well built man emerge from the ground. With a lance, no less. That seemed... oddly unique. Like my spear, now that I think about it. Amon mused as he dusted himself off. Perhaps they're matching us up? So that would mean...
"Military scum! Tonight the wings of justice envelop you!"
Amon grinned at him. "I've been hearing that a lot this past year. It really makes me wonder, because I never got called that in the army. If I weren't an alchemist, would I still be military scum, or just plain scum?"
As he talked, Amon grabbed a nearby pipe and transmuted it into a spear.
Vlad was out for a stiff drink when he heard the explosions. He sprinted the whole block, dodging the panicked civilians.
The Vampire Alchemist arrived on the scene just in time to hear the dark melody of the two strange bombers. He transmuted his fangs, re-adjusted his finger-less gloves, and then transmuted his claws. He took a deep breath and decided to wait to move in until he saw the effect of the other two alchemist's combined assault.
Fireworks lit up the night sky in a tapestry of rich colors, silhouetting and decorating the bodies of Elias and Tasha as they took to the rooftops. Sparks shot from the alchemist's hands, and they lit the path further. A streak of daylight through the dark battleground that the city had become. The vigilance of the soldier was needed, as the assassin suddenly began moving at a much faster pace, using his extra speed to dart from side to side and off of obstacles rather than get further away. He suddenly drew a pair of handguns from his side, and opened fire. Bullets ricocheted off of all the walls around them, sparks of his own bouncing off of the rooftops as he tried to find his mark on the two of them.
Victor's heart still raced as Tasha and Elias raced off after his would-be killer. He didn't know how he managed to fight him off, but he was glad. He reached his sole hand under his pillow, and clutched the handgun he had been hiding there. He slid it under the cover of his sheet, and kept a hold on it. He wouldn't be caught off guard again. He swore it.
The poor kid's heart shot off yet again, though, as the door burst open to reveal a nurse checking in on him. "Oh, thank goodness you're all right!" she said in a sweet, if somewhat shrill tone. She walked in and checked the Corporal's clipboard for information as he gave his best innocent smile.
"Uh, thanks!" he watched for a second as the nurse set down the clipboard, and began detaching IVs. He stuttered. "Er, w-what are you doing?"
"Getting you all set up to move." the nurse said. But something was wrong. Her voice wasn't the one he'd heard a moment before. It was lower. Raspier. She turned to him, and Kendrall shrieked. Her face was different. Her feminine features replaced by a sharp, narrow face with sadistic eyes and a manic smile. Her hair crackled with energy, shifting from its brown bun into a symmetrical circle of green spiked strands. She, or it, or whatever it was leaned in close.
"We're going on a little trip, runt."
Anton didn't have to look hard to track his target. Drops of blood paved a gory pathway for him. Directions pointed, as best as he could tell, into an old series of abandoned sewage tunnels that ran underneath the city. It was like they wanted him to follow; but this new information didn't bode well. Only those in Demitri's hideout knew their way through those tunnels, or even how to get in after the military sealed off the entrances. They must have captured one of them, or maybe all of them; taken them as hostages and guides. He'd need to move quickly, before one of their limbs was left as bait like Abel's.
The battleground became clearly defined between the mad bomber brothers and the Alchemists. Kallu's wall blocked them all in, leaving them in a semicircular field clear of civilians and mostly free of debris as well. James made the opening move, firing his pepper spray bullets. They detonated all around the brothers, the foul stuff entering their nostrils and causing them to shake in agony for a moment. It only took a moment, however, for them to regain their senses; James realized with frustration that they were wearing protective goggles. The brothers began to sing again, starting with the clean-shaven one, producing more of their bombs from seemingly nowhere.
"I suppose it's time we told them, Krant, about our practiced ol' routine."
"Routines in the art oooof exploooosion!~" Krant replied. James and Kallu were hardened veterans. It took every ounce of their training not to drop their weapons and gape in sheer confusion at these two. The one lacking a mustache, clearly the wordier one, continued his chanting in that peculiar city-boy accent of his.
"And I suppose it's time we told you, you haven't got a prayer!"
"Any man could make that claim Kren so it's time we showed our game!~"
"That my brother and I are most supreme, bombers violent and obscene, elegant explosions of all time in this whole wide WORLD!"
They moved to attack before the Alchemists had to endure any more of their disturbing song. Bombs bounced across the walls, littering the area with high explosives. As Stone shielded himself with stone walls as the bombs went off, getting off with only mild contusions from rock impacting him, Projecting had to rely on speed and a lot of desperate jumps and rolls to escape the trail of detonations following him. If they weren't so busy trying not to die, it might have occurred to them how thoroughly embarrassing it was to be on the ropes against what appeared to be bomb-happy vaudevillian snake oil salesmen.
Kessler stood no chance. Ken's attack had nearly torn his leg clean off; all he could do was shriek and cry as Leo's final barrage tore him to shreds. His flesh and bones were practically peeled away from the force of the attack, leaving behind a shredded corpse that fell backwards. A single pained sigh escaped his lungs as his life ended.
On the other side of the warehouse sounds of struggling could be heard. Mr. Indigo walked into view, the largest of his goons dragging Mr. Zero out along with him. "Excellent work, boys!" Indigo said, surprisingly not too perturbed by the arrival of a new Alchemist. "I doubt it was easy gettin' a fella like dis t' go down. My boy's 've been fearin' dis chump fer th' last four months, an' now he's blood an' guts on th' floor! I guess all that's left t' do is finish off dis fella."
Two more of Indigo's men appeared, wrenching away the darts and freeing Leo from his place on the wall. As Barefoot walked up, Indigo flourished and pointed out the other gang leader. "Care t'do th' honors?"
"No!" Mr. Zero shouted, desperate. "I'll give you anything! Money, power, weapons! Just don't do it!"
"Ah, shuddit, Zero." Indigo told him, lighting up a cigar bit between his clenched teeth. "Any weapons you've got, we just took from ya."
The alleyway was, as Marlin had predicted, dark and foreboding. Explosions in the distance became clear in Deep Blue's ears, and told him that there was definitely no good going down on this night. No entrances or exits seemed obvious, save for a single door at the top of half a dozen steps on the very end of the alley. He had no clue where it led, but it must have been where the... thing had gone.
Isaac's personal foe was far more agile than the Alchemist had given him credit for. Like a blur, the man ducked and weaved between the strikes like it was nothing, swift but unrelenting blows from his sword deflecting the few that actually managed to get in his way. By the time Isaac had taken three steps from the car, the man attacking him had somersaulted straight over it and was directly in his path. The assassin's face was hidden, shut away behind a white mask with blue markings. He had no idea what it could have been, but the design seemed like some kind of large cat.
The sword lunged forward, stabs cuts and thrusts cutting all around Isaac as the man desperately weaved his way between blows. This carried on for about five seconds before a quick cut opened a nick on Steel Web's shoulder. A trickle of blood escaped, and the assassin leaped back from the Alchemist's counter attack.
"You're strong. Dog." the man said, stoicism restraining his voice. "But you lack speed. And sense."
The assassin raised his pistol and prepared to fire.
Amon's enemy grinned in glee. "I was hoping you'd do that."
The huge man shot forward with surprising momentum and speed for his size. His own spear clashed with Spice's over a series of a dozen clanging sounds of metal on metal. Though Amon was more agile, the huge man had strength. Each blow knocked him a bit further off balance, making it harder to block the next blow. He would have to find a way to counter his strikes, and quickly.
Vlad climbed up the side of one of the buildings connected to Kallu's wall and made it too the roof. There he decided to take advantage of the bombers' apparent tunnel vision caused by their gleeful insanity.
He opened his blue coat, which was stuffed with a small arsenal of blood bags, and took out two. He bit them open as he jumped down from the roof, letting the blood spill onto the ground, a bit of it splashing on the mustached brother.
Just as the bomber turned around to see what had splashed him, Vlad put his new gloves to the blood, making work of his newly invented circles. The blood rapidly turned to hardened scab material, and began erupting upwards in a trail of spikes aiming to impale the brother.
It was far from the first time Isaac had had a shoulder slashed open, and God knew it probably wouldn't be the last. That said, the feeling of the assassin's blade tearing through his clothes and flesh was one of agony, the blow flaying away skin and nerves. As blood seeped from the wound, staining yet another one of his uniforms scarlet, Isaac bit back a scream; there was no time for pain here. He'd just have to deal with it later.
Grunting slightly, Isaac swung a leg forward, his assailant flipping back reflexively. However, it was not towards his masked foe that Isaac aimed, but towards the block of metal lying on the ground. The chunk of steel was snagged by his foot, and with a bit of effort the alchemist forced the metal into the air.
The scorch marks marring his right glove ensured that those transmutation circles would be useless, so Isaac instead clapped his left hand against his faithful steel, azure sparks blossoming forth as energy pulsed through the material. A quintet of impossibly thin wires sprouted from the mass, which Isaac adroitly guided to the rings on his right hand. By the time the masked man had regained his footing, the next burst of alchemy was done, the wires bonded to the metal circlets.
As the large block of steel clattered to the ground once more, Isaac flicked his wrist, the wires snapping through the air, spreading out their reach and length. Had it not been for the flames that surrounded them, the steel tendrils would have been almost invisible to the naked eye, no thicker than spider-silk. As it was, they gleamed and glistened in the flickering glow, wafting through the air as though gravity held no sway over them.
"You're strong. Dog. But you lack speed. And sense."
The man's words cut through the air, barbed and cruel. Isaac didn't bother to reply to statement; witty quips would do nothing to help him here. Instead, he responded in another fashion, a brilliant strand of cyan slashing through the air as one of his rings began to glow. The wire twirled and danced around the barrel of the masked man's pistol, ensnaring the weapon in its grasp.
Though he remained silent, Isaac did allow himself a slight smile, as he gave a gentle tug.
The assassin's gun split in two, its front half clattering to the ground, as a length of diamond-edged steel sliced through it, as easily as a knife through butter. No slide, no shots. What will you do now?
As Vlad attacked the Mustasched brother, Kallu transmuted the stone wall to shoot out a wave of spikes into the clean-shaven brother. the spikes sent the brother forward as he dodged them, sending him straight into Kallu's charging fist aimed for his stomach.
"I was hoping you'd do that."
"Oh, I don't doubt that," Amon muttered as the man charged. He was surprisingly fast for his size, but Amon was prepared. His spear blurred as he put the past few days' training to good use. Unfortunately, blocking wasn't going to be enough. He could block each blow, but that didn't help when he was using his lance like a hammer. If he was actually using a hammer there would have been no problem, but his lance had range in addition to his power. Amon grunted again as he was driven back. This was tough. Get in close and he can lay me out. Stay at range and he can equal it.
One decision and a couple blows later, Amon made his move. Alchemical energy crackled and three things happened. First, Amon brought his spear up to block the incoming lance, but instead of blocking, allowed the lance to force his spearhead down to one side. Second, Amon brought the butt end of his spear up as his spearhead fell. Third, Amon transmuted the butt of his spear into a spike. Due to his first two actions, that spike was aimed directly at the assassin's throat. As the spike transmuted, Amon did one more thing: To make sure that his spear didn't catch, Amon transmuted the spar that would normally keep a weapon or body from sliding past the blade and down the handle. While the spearbutt became a spike, the spar melted back into the weapon.
Like a viper, Amon thrust at the assassin's neck.
Leo walked over to Archer's corpse, his body still aching. He let out a small spike from the ground and broke it off, then leaned forward to look at Archer's special circle. A quick cut allowed Leo to keep his very own copy of the strange circle for further study and as no one will mourn the loss of another criminal, Leo didn't mind the desecration of the bastard that nearly killed him.
"Thank you, Indigo", Leo replied. He made his war to Mr. Zero and watched him squirm. The blade still in his hand, he held his head up and made him look at Leo. "I won't hurt you if you tell me what I want to know. Torture will only make you say lies... So tell me now, before you make me peel your skin off."
Leo presented him the knife in one hand and Archer's circle in the other. "Where did Archer come from...And where did you get those weapons. Who do you work for, Zero?".
Marlin progressed cautiously through the alleyway, pausing as he heard the sounds of explosions in the distance. He considered turning back and investigating the explosions instead as that seemed more likely to place the innocent in danger. But he found he simply couldn't let that creature get away, both due to his curiosity and what was best described as a bad feeling about it.
He turned his attention back to the matter at hand and noted that there was only one way the thing could have gone. At least it's easy to follow.... Perhaps a bit too easy. The possibility of a trap becoming increasingly likely, Marlin filled his jar about halfway with water just in case. He then proceeded up the stairs and carefully pushed the door at the top of them open.
Roland acknowledged that Kallu and James could handle themselves fine against these mad bombers.
He sprinted off in pursuit of the shadowy kidnapper.
About time... Everything went according to plan
He was fast; so fast Roland was having trouble keeping him in his sight, let alone catching up to him. The flashes of light from explosions in the sky brought brief illumination to the streets below, each burst of light allowed him to keep track of the kidnapper.
"Heeeelp! H-h-help me! Mr Lightning!"
He could hear Richard's cries growing fainter as the thief headed down an alleyway, he was gaining speed, and Roland wasn't. He felt something underfoot as he ran in pursuit. Small splashes of water hit his ankle as he ran. There were still puddles in the alleyway from the early morning rain.
He uncoiled his whip as he ran, dragging it against the wet floor, he whipped it forward, and directed the current through it, enough to hopefully immobilise the thief.
James dodged and rolled away from the bombs, the of them knocking to the ground. Struggling to his feet, he adjusted his gloves. Clapping his hands together he created a cannon out of the ground, aimed right above the brother's head.
"So those are your explosives? Let me show you what the military uses!" James fired the cannon right above their heads, aiming to bury the two in rumble.
So, you want to do this the hard way? Elias thought as the assassin's bullets danced around him and Tasha. Mid-stride, when neither foot was touching the ground, Elias straightened his shooting arm, placed the front sight over the assassin, and fired. If the shot hit, it didn't appear to have any effect, but after a few more steps he did the same thing. Normally, hitting a moving target while moving would be a hell of a shot, but an automail arm made it a bit easier. The next few shots didn't connect, either, but hearing shots whiz by had to do some damage to the assassin's nerves.
"Hold still!" he called out, firing the rest of the shots in his magazine in between his next few steps. His last shot caused the assassin to visibly stumble, but he couldn't tell if it was due to a hit, or a miss that was too close for comfort. Without reloading the handgun, he shoved it back in its holster. This guy's too fast for one bullet. The awkward movement slowed him down for a second, but once he'd regained his running rhythm he had his shotgun in his hands. Let's see how he deals with nine.
The brother Krant was unable to stop the blood from splashing onto his garish vest, but his agility was far more pronounced when Vlad's strange scab-like spikes attempted to impale him. The brother flipped in the air, depositing a few bombs slipped from his white shirt's sleeve beneath him. Fragments of the scabs shot in every direction, pelting Vlad with his own arsenal. Vampire was not harmed, but it was enough time for Krant to bring out his newest weapon. It was unlike anything they had seen, a pair of dynamite sticks that seemed to have their fuses tied together. Krant twirled them about as he sang a bit.
"We really cannot tell you, how pleased we are to see you! My name is Krant, the brother tacituuuuurn~"
He slipped out a lighter from a pocket and lit it.
"Our test subject pool is growing thin, so with all of you we'll start again! So please just sit, back, relax and BUUUUUUURN~"
He tossed the sticks of dynamite, lighting the fuse as they left his hand. They spun together for a moment, before they ran out of knot and split apart, one stick shooting to the left and then the right of Vlad before detonating.
"Hehe... and for our research, please, rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10."
The fist caught the clean-shaven brother, Kren, straight in the stomach. To his disgust, a bit of Kren's spit showered Kallu's face as the impact flung him backwards, crashing through a spike and rolling to a stop a short distance away. Stone's sense of triumph was short-lived, however. A small ball rolled up to his foot, presumably deposited right as Kallu pu--
KABANG. Stone's thought was interrupted by the detonation of the flashbang grenade completely blinding and deafening him. Kren stood back up and dusted himself off. "A little too easy, if I say so, sir. A little bit too easy indeed, for you underestimate our talents but our performance will shut that up!"
Before Kren could continue on his confusing tirade, James fired his cannon straight into the buildings above them, showering the brother in rubble. Bits of rock bounced all around, but Kren was lucky enough to weave through the worst of it; when the dust settled he was tossing up and catching a spherical bomb like it was a baseball. He wound himself into a pitching stance, and tossed the lit payload at James at what must have been a good 75 miles per hour.
The assassin gave a scoff and a growl mixed into one noise as his gun fell apart. "You foolish dog. You destroyed the weapon my clan is LEAST proficient in!"
Before Isaac could contemplate what he meant by "clan", the assassin used his free hand to draw a second blade from his side, this one with a curved blade instead of the saber more commonly found in Amestris. A second later, a veritable whirlwind rocketed through Steel Web's interlocking blades. As thin as the tendrils were, they were fairly malleable through precision and force. The assassin went through the wires with ease, his blades slicing up Isaac's. As the last thread was cut, the masked man was only about six feet away from the Alchemist himself. He fell on his left leg first from his aerial position, and kicked off into a spin, bringing both of his blades around to slash as Isaac's head.
The assassin fighting Amon barely managed to lean back and twist his head as Spice thrusted. The spear's blade cut straight through his cheek and even a bit of his left jawbone, but the man was otherwise unharmed. The next move he made was a bit more unorthodox.
The brutish looking fellow fell flat on his back, and from there took his spear and took multiple jabs with it from there, aiming to impale Amon from a lower position. With a long weapon like a spear, it would be more difficult to effectively block beneath its regular holding position.
Mr. Zero's face froze, only giving a few twitches as stared at the peeled skin in horror. Sweat trickled down his face. This was not a man made for stressful situations. He stayed like that for twenty seconds or so, before gritting his teeth and finally shouting in a shrill, cheated voice.
"IT WAS THE MILITARY!" he said, releasing all of the tension of the situation to introduce and entirely NEW tension. He gave a sob and a whine before elaborating. "I don't know where they got it from, or who he answers to, but some Captain in the military has been making weapons shipments to us for the last few months."
Mr. Indigo smacked Zero in the head with the butt of his gun, and snarled as he met his gaze. "WHERE?!" Indigo roared. "WHERE'RE DEY MEETIN' YA T' DROP OFF TH' WEAPONS?!?"
"T-tomorrow night!" Zero said, shivering and whimpering with each inch that Indigo drew nearer. "Tomorrow night, in a village about half a day's travel out west from here. There's a train leaving tomorrow at 11:00 for it! It's called Dublith!"
Indigo nodded and grinned at this revelation. He placed his gun up to Zero's head. "Thanks for the information."
With a new hole in his skull, Mr. Zero dropped to the floor, dead, and Mr. Indigo turned to Ken and Leo with hands extended to shake if they chose. "So boys, whaddaya say? Wanna help me an' my little troupe 'ere get ourselves a, shall we say, 'government contract'?"
The room that Marlin found himself in was not particular noteworthy. The first thing he noticed was how muffled everything was. The explosions and fireworks outside, and even his own footsteps and breath in there felt hushed. Something was intrinsically wrong with where he stood. He sought any clues as to where the... thing had gone.
The place appeared to just be some back-room kitchen, but next to what seemed to be the pantry was an open door. The only open door; he took a look and found a staircase going down into the darkness. At the very end of it, though, the faintest hint of light. Worth a shot.
He stepped down the staircase, and at the end found himself in a long hallway; he couldn't see the end, and only three candles seemed to line the entire distance. As he contemplated his options, a thin rattling whisper snaked in from the other end.
"Hello, Deep Blue..."
Roland got off a lucky crack of the whip, and the little tendril snaked around the kidnapper's leg. But something was wrong. He wasn't getting shocked, no matter how much juice went at him. All the whip ended up doing was tripping him, forcing him to lose precious seconds in regaining his momentum.
Though he wasn't in Roland's grasp yet, he was closer. The biggest question was where exactly he was running to.
As the assassin in front of Elias and Tasha continued leading them on his mad chase, he found himself leaping over a wide alleyway, touching down on the opposite building behind a chest-high wall. He crouched behind it and let loose with his weapons, a wide berth of bullets heavily increasing the dangers if either the alchemist or the soldier attempted to cross.
Almost inaudible in the cacophony of death and violence all around, three shots rang out near the hospital.
As he neared the alleyway, Elias drew his grenade launcher and fired its payload at the wall the assassin was hiding behind. High explosive rounds weren't too effective at penetrating cover, but his hope was that the resulting blast and cloud would force the assassin into cover for a few moments.
He tried to kill the kid.
Before the grenade could connect Elias had jumped across the alleyway, tossing the empty grenade launcher to the other roof as he brought his legs up to what resembled the fetal position, relying on their steel plating to stop the assassin's fire from hitting what flesh he still had. With his arms and head over his knees, he pumped and fired the shotgun several times in his flight, praying that the superior firepower would be enough to get him onto the rooftop unharmed.
Kallu reeled from the sudden flash and detonation. Blinded and deafened, he still had feeling and staggered around before stumbling into the wall he had made to protect himself from the explosions. He smiled before transmuting the wall next to it, sending spikes out about the place he last saw the two brothers.
"Your skills are somewhat impressive, I'll admit, but do you notice and take note of your surroundings?"
He began getting his sight back just as the spikes began tearing through the stone blocks fallen from the building. A small pinpoint of light, followed by an ever-widening tunnel until his sight was completely back, more or less with the same coloration as it was as it was supposed to. His hearing was slightly more difficult to get back, but what he had would serve him in the rest of this battle. It may prove to be a benefit against these men, at least against any long term hearing damage.
Shit! Tasha slid to a stop and crouched behind the waist high wall on her side of the alley. Damn it! How the hell are we.... She began to wonder as Elias shot off a few grenades the jumped the gap. He's insane, if he busts his auto-mail pulling off this stunt, I'm charging him for the replacements. She thought, preparing her self to jump should the rain of bullet's slow.
"You foolish dog. You destroyed the weapon my clan is LEAST proficient in!"
Isaac cursed as his wires were sliced away; he'd spent a better part of the week trying to perfectly intermix the diamond dust into his steel, in an attempt to craft some truly unbreakable weapons. Back to the drawing board, apparently.
Still, if nothing else, he had at least gotten rid of the gun. Though the assassin was obviously exceptional with his blades, dodging bayonets, sabers, and throwing knives for a good part of the past fifteen years wasn't going to waste. As the strange curved swords whistled towards his head, Isaac ducked down, his knees nearly brushing the pavement. The blows whiffed by overhead, before the assailant could correct their course.
It was then, after his near decapitation, that Isaac realized another use for his rings.
With as clear a shot as he was like to get, the soldier swung his fist into the side of his foe's torso, the metal circlets acting as impromptu "brass" knuckles. As the haymaker slammed into the man's side, Isaac felt the satisfactory impact he had been hoping for; a couple ribs must have at least cracked, if they hadn't outright broken.
A trained killer though the man might have been, but no one could take a blow like that without flinching. Still, to his credit, it was only an instant before his twin blades were swinging downwards, ready to cleave Isaac's head in twain. At least, they would have, had Isaac's head not recently vacated its position.
Rolling backwards, Isaac bought himself a couple yards of distance, bringing himself to a crouch next to his faithful steel. If wires weren't going to cut it against this guy, then he'd just have to find something that would. No pun intended.
Oh, to hell with it. Wires anyway. As the assassin began charging him again, Isaac slapped his left palm against the metal block, steel strands shooting once more into the air. Quickly connecting them to his rings, Isaac rose to his feet, backpedaling and swinging his arm towards his foe. Different circles on his rings began to glow, their energy spreading along the wires, the thin tendrils twisting every which way. Soon, the assassin was surrounded by a sea of azure lights.
Isaac flicked his wrist, his weapons whipping through the air. Check.
Elias's gambit paid off, against all odds. Between the grenades and weapons fire, the assassin was unable to get in a single shot on the soldier as he made his leap over the gap. The shotgun fire nearly sabotaged him, though, as the recoil shaved several feet off of his distance. He came down on the other side.
Right next to the assassin.
The man clad in black wasted no more than a second in gaping at Elias before he brandished a pair of pistols and fired off shots like a machine gunner. The bullets bounced and ricocheted off of the soldier's automail as he deflected shots, but it wouldn't last long. The dents were becoming more pronounced, and his movements started to slow as the machinery had less room to work. A pump and a pull of the trigger later, and the shotgun had remedied this issue.
The assassin was fast, but he wasn't ready to dodge a chest full of buckshot at that close of range. Despite his speed, a little under half of the payload found itself digging into his stomach, and the lower half of his chest. Terrible hacking and coughing came from beneath his mask, and even in the dim light provided by the azure fireworks at the moment, Elias could pick out the large red stain over his mouth, and larger one where the wound was placed.
The assassin stumbled back, losing his balance but still fast and a little more agile than expected. He lazily spun, hinting that he may have finally been ready to drop.
But instead, he came back around with an unpinned grenade, which he let fly directly towards Elias.
The assassin danced.
A dervish of blades, clad in black and with a mask as pale as the moonlight, in the azure glow of the minuscule wires flicking around him, and the night sky detonating with balls of blue light, the lighting was set for a swan song. A sweeping cut left, and a zagging slash up, followed by a twirling flurry of blades in every direction. His body contorted, leaning down, then flipping over and to his left, all the while blades spinning and catching and tossing about with a speed and deliberateness despite the fluidity, an onlooker might have mistaken it either for a talentless, purposeless mad slinging of blades every which way, or otherwise that the swords were moving entirely of their own volition.
But this was not the case. The case, as it were, was that the assassin was that good. A thousand blades invisible to the naked eye must have skidded across the man's blades, and not a single fleck of blood was drawn. His clothes were frayed, bits of nonessential fabric shredded away; they were not a part of his defensive strategy, and needed to be sacrificed to defend his flesh. But that was all that came of it, as long as the dance lasted. Through it all, he spoke. Cockily, perhaps, but not without merit.
"Do you know," the assassin said as he tumbled right, the curved blade spinning around his forearm after release and deflecting a coarse net of wires. "what the meaning of LEGACY is? These swords have been passed down my clan's line since its founding! It is infused with the will of a thousand men and women. Your country's tainted arts will do nothing against them!"
For the briefest moment, there was a lull in the blades. The assassin took that chance and ripped something from a pouch on his side, a gray ball with a plug-like cap on it. He pulled it out with his teeth and tossed it to the ground. The impact shattered the ball, and from it came a puff of white smoke that enveloped the entire street, obscuring Isaac's view completely beyond a few feet.
He stood silently, listening. Watching. A small click to his left. As his eyes darted, his training picked up at the last defensible moment that the real movement came from his right. His head moved to look, and the assassin was descending with both blades from his right.
As Isaac watched the blades descend towards him once more, dozens of thoughts and questions flashed through his mind. Time slowed down, as the myriad of ideas and emotions rushing through his mind made themselves clear.
First, he wondered at the man standing before him, the man who was trying with every fiber of his being to kill him. He was no terrorist, no renegade soldier, no purposeless punk with a grudge against the government. This was a man with godlike skills, an entity of unbelievable power and might. He was a titan, a ghost, the ultimate kind of soldier. Though it made sense that he was somehow connected to the bombings, there was no way that such crass measures were his usual tactics; beings with this much talent need not rely on explosions and flames. No, this was part of something bigger, something much larger than mere terrorism or assassins. And whatever it was, it wanted Isaac dead.
Second, Isaac pondered his killer's words, as the blades the man prized so dearly came closer and closer to ending his life. Legacies and generations, men and women trained to kill and slaughter. A man born to kill, his entire destiny decided by the tools of his family. What did Isaac have that could compare to that? A father who lived by his needle and thread, a man whose only remarkable trait was a small talent for alchemy?
In the end, all thoughts and emotions faded away, as Isaac simply accepted his fate. He had tried his best, thrown everything he could at his foe, all for naught. He was out of his league, outclassed, doomed to fail. It was over; what was the point in trying any further?
Like hell it was over! Like hell he was going to give up and die here! Like hell he was going to let this ignorant ass get away with his cocky bullshit, with his mocking words and fancy tricks! Isaac may not have been able to match him in terms of acrobatics or skill with a blade, but so what?! Damn this bastard and damn his swords. This fight was finished. NOW.
"Legacy?" Isaac asked, as his doom whistled towards him. "You think you're the only one with predecessors and history, the only one who has history backing him?"
Both of the alchemist's arms swung through the air, his fight hand squeezed into a fist, his left open and ready to strike. "I am my father's son, and I learned these 'tainted arts' from him! Let me show you my legacy, my father's arts you insolent bastard!"
Metal rang against metal, as Isaac's rings collided against one of the blades, the sword glancing off the steel circlets. The redirected blow slashed along the alchemist's arm, shaving cloth and skin; a large wound, but not one that would threaten his life. At the same time, Isaac's left hand, its main transmutation circle blazing with cyan light, connected with the assassin's other sword. A blue flash lit the night, and the metal collapsed and fell, splitting into hundreds of useless wires.
"Go to hell, you insufferable asshole!" With a resounding thud, Isaac slammed his forehead into the assassin's mask. Ignoring the drops of scarlet staining his vision, the enraged alchemist repeated the action, driving his foe back with a series of frenzied headbutts.
As the masked man tried to respond, awkwardly swinging his remaining blade towards Issac's head once more, he found his sword impaired, his target's fist clenched tightly around it. Roaring out once more, Isaac slammed his open palm onto the weapon, destroying it as well.
Winded, burnt, and bleeding heavily from his head, hand, and arm, Isaac faced his foe, rage pulsing through every vein and cell in his body. With a final cry, he charged forward, ignoring the pain that lanced through his wounds and injuries. As blood spurted from his arm and hand, he slammed his right fist into the center of his foe's mask, the force of the impact effectively shattering his fingers. Nevertheless, he persevered, slamming into the mask again and again, his endless cry refusing to abate.
A strange hesitation gripped Marlin as he made his way onward. The strange atmosphere of this place, the dulling muting effect it seemed to have on everything around him, the eerie silence and minimal lighting all inspired a strange uncertain feeling in him. As he made his way down the stairs and heard the whispering voice call to him at the end of yet another dark passage, he realized that it was fear that he was pressing on in spite of.
And who could blame him when he was facing so many unknown circumstances? He had no idea what manner of being he was pursuing, whether it meant him harm or what it was capable of. Was it the owner of the voice calling out to him? How did it know who he was? Marlin feared that the answers to these questions would not end favorably for him, but he liked the idea of not learning the truth even less. He gripped his jar tightly and proceeded down the hall with a quick but cautious pace.
".... Wh-who's there? Show yourself!" He called back down the hallway, hoping to catch a glimpse of the one addressing him.
Leo watched the execution without flinching. He rolled up the keepsake he has from Archer and placed it inside his pocket, wiped his hand over his dirty torn trousers and extended his to meet with Mr. Indigo's handshake. "Agreed, Indigo. We will go and get ourselves...", Leo winked at the old gentleman,"...a military contract".
The masked man fell. The pain and the shock was too intense as the fevered blows of Steel Web battered their way through his mask. Each blow brought a new crack, and through the crack came a trickle of blood. A new sound joined the fireworks. A rolling boom of thunder heralded the arrival, which poured down into the streets with mad fervor. The fires began to go out by the sheer force and volume of it all, and both combatants were drenched, their wounds cleaned and the blood carried away by the downpour. Steel Web's blows slowed as time passed. With each new strike, a shard of his energy broke off, draining him. His grunts and roars became more pronounced and deliberate as he fought to keep up the effort.
A final, desperate strike downward came too slow. With a strained movement of his own, the assassin caught Steel Web's fist. The blood dripped down his foe's hand, staining his black clothes red. A ragged breath carried with it the assassin's words. "You are strong. You have fought as well as you possibly could."
"This is a good death. There is no shame in it."
A triangular dagger, gripped by an elongated metal handle with a rang at the end, embedded itself just below Isaac's sternum. The pain was intense, yet in the moment no sounds were made. All he could do was look down at it, and feel the assassin brace his legs up against his stomach. He made a forceful push and kick, and the force of it launched Isaac feet backwards and onto his back. The heavy rain caused him further pain as it splashed against his open wound, while the assassin struggled to his feet. Still holding the knife. He took two steps closer, to the point he was standing at Isaac's feet. He raised the knife, ready to cast it down.
The sound of alchemical discharge caught both of their attention. Blue sparks flew in every direction as the street itself folded, a wave of cobblestone brick and the earth itself crashing down upon them. The torrent went past Steel Web and forwarded all of its momentum into the assassin. His body was swept up by the current and sent hurtling into the wall of the hotel across the street. As the dust settled, no movement was distinguishable. Dead, or at least unconscious. But at that moment Isaac was more concerned with who had saved him.
A hooded figure stepped beside him onto the street, and kneeled down next to him, brandishing a roll of bandages. In silence, Frieda Montierre began to treat his wounds.
At the end of the long hallway, at Marlin's request, a fourth candle lit itself. In the utter darkness, even with that candle only the vaguest outline of a face appeared. But it was that same face. That inhuman, pale face. It didn't appear to even be blinking, or moving at all. It stood like a statue, daring him to come closer. As the thoughts of running first began to trickle into Deep Blue's mind, he heard a slam and a click behind him. His only exit, gone. And the figure in front of him remained, every horrifying aspect of him. By some blessed luck, as he slowly, tentatively took a step closer the thing retreated. It slunk out of sight, with no clear movement of feet. It simply slid. All the more unnerving. That rattling, hissing voice called out to him again.
"We have been... waiting for you, Marlin. Come inssssside..."
"Excellent!" Mr. Indigo replied, shaking Leo's hand vigorously, and then Ken's. "'Ey, udda alchemist kid, just thought I should menchin, you c'n come alon' too if ya want. Th' more th' merrier. So both of ya, if'n yer interested, go ahead an' git some rest, and meet me at th' train station in the mornin', goddit? Good!"
The mafioso turned and made for the exit, his posse leaving with him. And with good reason, too. The rain was starting to come down hard, and they heard something off in the distance. Were they... explosions?
Amon pitched himself backward to avoid the awkward move. Once again he hit the ground and rolled, tucking his spear in horizontal so that it wouldn't interrupt his movement. He came up again waiting for a fight, but he didn't attack just yet.
"So." he said after a moment. "Now that we've gotten to know each other, why don't we share names? It's not everyday that I meet someone who's perfectly matched to my skillset."
Ken wasn't sure of what to make of the events that have just unfolded, he didn't know who he just helped and who he just fought against. Though with the problem of the homunculus, ken decided that it was best to just forget about this, Ken started leaving the ware house without saying a single word. He wanted to enjoy the rest of the aestival not knowing what his other team mates were going through at this moment.
With the freedom to finally stand, the man with the long lance stood back up, wiping what blood he could away from his wound and cleaning his face a bit.
"So." Amon said after a moment. "Now that we've gotten to know each other, why don't we share names? It's not everyday that I meet someone who's perfectly matched to my skillset."
The man nodded, and pointed to himself. "The name's Engels. Before I left, the military used to call me the Mole Alchemist. But you don't need to tell me anything; I already know all about you, Spice. Or should I call you Amon?"
The thief ran. Harder and faster, their body snaked through alleyways and down streets as Roland pushed himself to keep up. Just as he began to suspect that he couldn't go any further, the thief stopped. They turned around, and glared at Roland dead in the eye. He took a look around at where they were.
Shattered stone, hastily made and broken pillars, a single hole in the ceiling. His eyes lit up as they recognized the battleground where they had fought Amaud.
"Welcome to your own little slice of hell, dog." the kidnapper told him. With a chop to the neck, Richard went limp and unconscious. The thief casually tossed the boy into a pile of rubble several feet behind their position, and withdrew a gun from a holster on their leg. "I thought that if you were going to die, it might as well be somewhere familiar."
But Roland recognized the real reason. With the sounds of the festival, and the military and police focused on stabilizing the situation there, nobody would be in a part of town this isolated. He was alone.
"The name's Engels. Before I left, the military used to call me the Mole Alchemist. But you don't need to tell me anything; I already know all about you, Spice. Or should I call you Amon?"
Amon laughed hard at that one. "The name fits! Your entrance is one asspoke that I certainly do NOT want to feel."
He twirled his spear, transmuting it casually back to its original form. His grin was stretched across his face. "But really. I don't get assassins every day, so this is exciting. D'you mind if I ask who sent ya?"
James caught the bomb in the palm of his hands, and threw it quickly to the side against the wall. Most of the time being far away was an advantage for James but in this battle the bombs were just dangerous and they were everywhere. So there was only one thing to go. James charged the mustached one, taking out his gun and switching the magazine for his piercing bullets. They only needed one of the brothers alive after all.
James tackled the clean shaven brother, aiming to take him down to the ground and shot him through the arm.
"Welcome to your own little slice of hell, dog."
"Dog huh? Never heard that one before..."
Roland reached into his pocket and produced a pack of cigarettes.
He took one and lit it with the sparks between his fingers, before taking a long drag, and exhaling the contents of his lungs.
"Tell me, who are you working for? If you tell me this, I'll be sure to make your death quick"
He took another drag on his cigarette.
He extinguished the cigarette with his heel.
"I can show you this 'dog's' bite"
Roland planted his feet, and gestured towards the thief, beckoning him closer.
Two feelings rushed through Elias as he spotted the incoming grenade: part fear of death, and part annoyance at the thought of losing another limb.
Spinning around, he began his dash for the edge of the roof, which was a small wall about a foot higher than the roof itself.
He began to vault over the small wall, but made sure his support arm kept its grip on the edge of the roof, instead of letting go.
Pinning the shotgun between his legs, Elias raised his free right arm to keep his face from hitting the solid brick wall. As his arm struck the wall, he closed his eyes and braced himself for the explosion.
Pain laced through Isaac's fist, as he rained blow after blow onto his foe's mask. But the soldier didn't care. He wasn't going to die here, he wasn't going to lose. This was his fight now, his victory, his
The sensation of freezing metal piercing his innards brought the alchemist to a halt, his arm pausing mid-swing. Glancing down, Isaac gaped at the knife in the assassin's fist, the knife that had been plunged into his gut. Icy agony laced through his body, cold fire paralyzing his body. Isaac did nothing to resist as his foe kicked him to the ground, unable to force himself to remain standing.
"This is a good death. There is no shame in it."
As the rain poured down, soaking Isaac's bloody clothes, he was unable to respond. What could he possible say, as this man lectured him about honor and death? Tch, not like it mattered. Isaac was a solider, a military man through and through. Death was a part of his job; he would go into that black night without fear or hate.
And then, without warning, a deluge of bricks and stone flowed over him, slamming into the assassin, knocking him backwards and into a wall across the street. Huh. That was unexpected.
Isaac's ability to be surprised was significantly inhibited by his massive injuries; nevertheless he still managed to be shocked as a familiar face entered his view. "I-I..." Isaac's words were cut off, as he began coughing, flecks of blood staining his mouth and chin.
As Frieda began to treat his numerous wounds, Isaac managed to squeeze out a few words: "I don't... why are you helping me?"
Even if he wanted to, there was no turning back now. The thing he had followed had led him into a trap it seemed and now he had no choice but to continue walking right into it. Whatever that creature he had seen was, it seemed to be capable of human speech at least. It said 'we' though... Are there more of them down here? Marlin thought as he continued down the passage.
"... Who are you? How do you know who I am? Why have you been waiting for me?" Marlin called down the passage as he walked towards it. No matter what happened here, he at least wanted some answers.
Leo left the ruined warehouse and came by a couple of undamaged crates on his way out. Leo was curiously looking at them and decided to open them and view their contents. After all, he deserved the loot Indigo didn't scavenge already. He used the stone shard to pry off four nails, slowly removing them from the wood and tossing them aside. Inside were wraps of linen stacked on each other. Leo grabbed one and felt the shape of a bottle iside. He unswrapped it and discovered a bottle of scotch in a foreign with inscriptions in a foreign language he couldn't understand. With a smile, Leo uncorcked the bottle and sprinkled it on his leg and lower back, biting his lip as it entered his wounds. He tossed the bottle at the warehouse and enlarged a small fire the bottle landed on. Leo shrugged and grabbed another bottle from the crate.
"Old habits never die, don't they?", Leo spoke quietly. He uncorked the bottle and took a swig of scotch. "Last time I met you was...hm...When Lara died. Actually, I didn't leave you for five months after that-", Leo stopped and took another swig from the bottle, this time pausing in the middle to take a breathe of air and then drinking more of the scotch.
Leo looked aside and saw the festival at full swing. "What's left, dear 'ol Leonard? My scotch is here - All that remains is a good cigar-", Leo drank some more and continue, "-no, not that. Maybe... A shoulder to cry on".
Leo made his way away from the burning mansion and back towards the city, making his way to one of the busiest street with bars and stands on either side. "Shit... Got no money on me now".
Vlad rolled from the smoke of the explosion, coughing, but unharmed.
He dived for the scabbed blood spikes, laying his hand on one of them. Suddenly, the whole row of them came together into a large spike and launched itself at the brother with the mustache.
The mad bomber threw a grenade that blew the spike to pieces. He grinned in satisfaction and in that moment, Vlad pounced on him. Wile the brother was distracted by the spike, Vlad had raced toward him.
The brother was pinned to the ground, with the Vampire Alchemist's claws dug into his fore-arms.